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Leptin, Weight Loss and Coffee

By Matthew Larson

Your own anecdotal experience may tell you that coffee consumption is related to weight loss. Coffee has been consumed for generations and its affects on energy are well-known. Recent research has helped us to better understand the mechanism that causes this.

Energy Balance

All living organisms possess the unique ability to reach and maintain homeostasis. Against all laws of entropy, which are constantly driving molecules toward disorder and chaos, the element of life allows the slowing and reversal of this basic, universal process. One essential aspect of homeostasis involves the regulation of energy balance. The organism must adjust rates of metabolism with respect to levels of intake in order to remain in the dynamic equilibrium that is life. It is widely accepted that body weight is regulated by both hormones and neurons. Evidence suggests that the master regulator of these effects is leptin.

Properties of Leptin

Leptin is a protein hormone that is produced by fat cells. It gives instructions to the hypothalamus and can serve as a measure of total fat stores. Leptin is produced and released by fat cells in proportion to the level of fat storage. This protein hormone enters the blood, travels to the brain, and mainly affects the hypothalamus. When leptin levels are high, neural, hormonal, and metabolic afferent signals lead to a decreased appetite. Scientists have shown that obese patients have a form of “leptin resistance,” disabling the endocrine communication system between fat tissue and hunger centers in the brain.

Weight Loss and Coffee

Several recent studies have drawn connections between coffee intake, leptin reduction and weight loss. In a 2005 study by Westerterp-Plantenga MS, high caffeine intake was associated with weight loss and suppressed leptin levels in women. Researchers at Brooklyn College have reported on the inverse link between coffee consumption and the incidence of obesity. Their review discusses the possibility that caffeine and other components of coffee, including quinides and chlorogenic acid, may be involved in causing weight loss. This evidence supports a causal relationship between coffee intake and weight loss.

Expert Insight

According to the article, which was published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2006, epidemiologic studies have concluded coffee ingestion reduces the risk of diabetes. This effect appears to occur through the aforementioned loss of weight, as it has been documented that obesity is a strong risk factor for diabetes. From this perspective, coffee is essentially solving two problems. Additionally, reports from the "Journal of Agriculture Food Chemistry" emphasize the anti-inflammatory effects of coffee, which has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome.


Coffee is a common beverage in our culture, readily available and, for the most part, safe to consume. It is important to discuss changes in your diet with your doctor, as patients with heart conditions have been shown to acutely increase blood pressure following coffee consumption. Your specific health conditions must always be considered when adding a drug like caffeine to your diet.

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